2008_07_aiello.jpgLaw enforcement sources think Jason Aiello, a former NYPD sergeant, wanted to commit "suicide by cop" yesterday. After escaping the psychiatric facility at a local hospital early Tuesday morning, Aiello was fatally shot after refusing to put down his weapons outside his Staten Island home.

Aiello had been working as a bodyguard for his friend, jeweler Louis Antonelli; in April, Antonelli was killed what the FBI suspects might have been a mob-related hit (Antonelli is suspected of having connections with the Genovese crime family). Though they had picked up $200,000 in jewelry, the Daily News points out Aiello wasn't armed that night and suggests suspicions about his connection to the murder haunted him. And then the recent questioning from the FBI sent him to the hospital on Monday night.

Yesterday's morning confrontation between Aiello and the police involved gunfire on both sides: The Advance said it became a "virtual shooting gallery," with Aiello firing eight times at cops and the cops responding with 19 shots. The Post described the scene, when cops resonded to a 911 call from Aiello's mother:

Cops found him in the street with his wife, bundling his children, aged 7, 5 and 3, into a minivan.

"Do you believe in God?" he asked one officer as cops grabbed a gun tucked into a holster on Aiello's waist and started to arrest him, according to police sources and witnesses.

Then he grabbed another weapon from his belt and before he opened fire, cops said. "He fired off two rounds, missed the police officers, and jumped into his cousin's SUV," said a police source.

"His wife jumped into the passenger seat. She was afraid he was going to take off."

Aiello shot at least five more times from inside the SUV and cops returned fire, hitting the ex-cop three times. His wife was uninjured.

A lawyer for the Aiello family accused the cops of excessive force, saying that Rachel Aiello yelled, "I have the gun, stop shooting," but the police continued to fire at them and questioned whether Aiello actually shot at the police. The lawyer also blamed Bayley Seton hospital for letting Aiello escape, "What kind of security does the hospital have that he can escape?"